UK-based Optical retail chain Specsavers has a $100-million investment strategy for Canada to open 200 locations across the country.
Half of that investment and locations will be in Ontario where a $50-million investment will create about 1,500 jobs.
The multi-million-dollar investment will cover 100 per cent of location start-up costs for optometrists and opticians who become Specsavers business owners. All optometry clinics and optical stores will be locally owned, creating new jobs and allowing owners to focus on the specific needs of their community.
Bill Moir, General Manager, Specsavers Canada, said the company wants to be market leaders in Canada by opening about 200 stores in the country by 2024.
“Every province we treat as unique because every one is different, every one has got its different regulations and cultures. We’re going to do 50 stores in British Columbia, 50 stores in Alberta and 100 stores in Ontario,” said Moir.
The company bought BC-based Image Optometry in March 2021 as it entered the Canadian marketplace. It currently has 16 locations – all in BC with the first in Nanaimo in November 2021.
Moir said Alberta stores will start opening in August, with some more stores in BC, followed by Ontario store openings in September.
“Those were the initial markets that we thought our model would work and be very successful with and then will continue to grow them over the course of the next 12 months,” he added.
The company does plan to open beyond those three provinces in the future.
“In order to be market leaders in Canada, we need to make sure that the majority of customers in Canada will have access to the brand,” said Moir. “We’ll start with these three provinces and we’ll then go to additional provinces.”
Moir said the high cost of eyewear is a barrier for many Canadians and Specsavers is keen to remove that barrier across the country. He said Canada is an appealing market for the company because it is not seeing customers’ needs being met in the market.
“We’re seeing the high price of eyewear in the market and that’s one of the reasons Canadians aren’t having regular eye exams. With our model, we come in, we use our scale to lower the cost of eyewear for Canadians, remove the barriers for people getting regular eye exams,” said Moir, adding that saving money is important to people now considering the rising costs of everything.
“We lower the cost of eyewear to encourage people to visit their optometrist more often.”
Specsavers was founded in the U.K. nearly 40 years ago by optometrist husband and wife team Doug and Mary Perkins and there are now more than 2,500 Specsavers healthcare businesses across 11 countries caring for 41 million patients and customers.
In announcing its Ontario expansion, Specsavers cited a recent poll which found that one-third of Ontarians haven’t had an eye exam in over three years, and 55 per cent feel as though eyewear is currently not affordable for Canadians. Specsavers’ $50-million investment in Ontario is aimed to enhance eye health outcomes, reduce preventable blindness and redefine accessible eyecare.
“Specsavers’ investment into Ontario aligns with our purpose of changing lives through better sight,” said Moir. “Seventy-five per cent of vision loss and blindness is preventable or treatable with early intervention. With Specsavers’ global scale, we are able to lower the cost of eyewear for Ontarians, which helps remove a significant barrier to getting regular eye exams, especially at a time when Ontarians are being more careful with their money due to rising costs.
“We equip optometrists and opticians working at Specsavers with the latest imaging and clinical technology to provide comprehensive eye exams. This includes OCT (optical coherence tomography), a 3D eye scan, which is provided to all patients as part of Specsavers’ standard eye exam because it’s proven to have a measurable impact on the early detection of sight threatening eye conditions.”
The company said it is focused on following the clinical evidence from Specsavers in Australia, where consistent use of OCT as part of standard care has enabled a significant increase in early detection and management of conditions like glaucoma. This ensures patients are made aware of any risks they have so their condition can be managed preventatively before vision is lost. OCT scans are a critical step in prevention and detection of a number of diseases, not all eye related, it said.
“Conditions such as glaucoma and diabetes can be detected through routine eye exams. When detected, they can be managed to ensure minimal impacts on vision. However, without attending for routine eye exams, Ontarians run the risk of these conditions advancing with little in the way of symptoms, which can ultimately lead to significant vision loss and detrimental impacts on quality of life,” said Naomi Barber, Specsavers’ Director of Optometry. “Regular eye exams can also play a role in identifying other significant health conditions, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Eye exams really are critical to overall health and well-being.”
Specsavers also announced that the brand will be setting out to build the largest network of opticians in Canada through appointing VP of the Opticians Association of Canada and President of the OAC’s British Columbia Chapter, Claudia Rojas, as Head of Opticianry, Specsavers Canada.
“In my new role as Head of Opticianry, I am guided by my commitment to promote eyecare and eye health awareness,” said Claudia Rojas, Head of Opticianry at Specsavers Canada. “I look forward to broadening our network and ensuring opticians feel relevant, important and appreciated, as they are integral to the eyecare industry.”
Specsavers aims to have at least one optician present at all optical stores, at all times, to mentor eyecare consultants and optimize patient care.
“Opticians are integral to the delivery of Specsavers’ purpose, which is to provide accessible, quality eyecare and affordable eyewear,” said Moir. “With Claudia at the helm, we’ll continue to support, train and mentor opticians to provide the best care possible, for example, using our OCT scans as a standard part of pre-test and our range of quality eyewear and advanced lenses, to best serve their patients.”